Comics, a Global History: Pilote, the Early Years

Uderzo - ASTERIX -le combat des chefs - p46 1966 DETAILComing in June from publisher Thames and Hudson, “Comics: A Global History, 1968 to the Present,” written by Alexander Danner and me.    Here are some excerpts and expanded material, including some great images that couldn’t fit in the book.Text in italics is directly from the book.

The decision to start the book in 1968, to define it as a sort of “comics come of age” narrative, sprung from the idea of “watershed” events like the appearance of Zap in the U.S., of Tsuge’s Nejishiki (Screw Style) in Japan, and, in Europe, and the changes seen in the pages of Pilote all taking place in that same year. In all these cases, of course, the breakthroughs of ’68 had been brewing throughout the earlier years of the decade.  As it says in the introduction…

 In Europe, the maturing of the comics audience was accompanied by a rebalancing of the creative center from Belgium toward France. This began with the establishment in 1959 of the Paris-based Pilote magazine by writers René Goscinny and Jean-Michel Charlier, and artist Albert Uderzo. Like Tintin or Spirou, Pilote was initially aimed at schoolboy readers and had a distinctly wholesome and pedagogical tone. But Goscinny, who became editor-in-chief, envisioned a more adult tone for bande dessinée, and Pilote began to move in that direction, helped by the popularity of Uderzo and Goscinny’s Astérix le Gaulois (Astérix the Gaul, 1959) and Charlier and Jean Giraud’s Lieutenant Blueberry (1963). Astérix, which was set in France during the period of Roman occupation, offered sly, anachronistic satire of contemporary culture, while Blueberry was a western with revisionist, antiauthoritarian undertones.

This Norman Rockwell hommage (or is it a parody) encapsulates the position of the early Pilote perfectly: still depicted in a classical mode, young French children gazing at the rebellious future as symbolized by French rock star Johnny Hallyday.

This Norman Rockwell hommage (or is it a parody) encapsulates the position of the early Pilote perfectly: still depicted in a classical mode, young French children gazing at the (mildly) rebellious future as symbolized by French rock star Johnny Hallyday.

Cabu - cover, Pilote 179, 1963. Cabu's insouciant teenage character "Le Grand Duduche," is another indicator of Pilote's trajectory toward youth culture and unconventional graphic styles.

Cabu – cover, Pilote 179, 1963. Cabu’s insouciant teenage character “Le Grand Duduche,” is another indicator of Pilote’s trajectory toward youth culture and unconventional graphic styles.

In its first few years, Pilote’s content was only subtly different from that of  Spirou and Tintin.  Though the tone was perhaps a bit breezier, Pilote, like its Belgian elders, featured articles on current events, sports, pop culture and exotic cultures.

From March 1963, "Les Jeudis de Pilote," a feature that included letters to the editor, articles on sports and pop music, and a contest for readers to send in photos of themselves resembling celebrities like Charlie Chaplin or the Prince of Wales (below)

From March 1963, “Les Jeudis de Pilote,” a feature that included letters to the editor, articles on sports and pop music, and a contest for readers to send in photos of friends who were “sosies” (lookalikes) for celebrities like Sir Edmund Hillary, Charlie Chaplin, Ian Fleming or the Prince of Wales (below)

les jeudis de pilite 28-3-63 DETAIL

For the most part, the bandes dessinées found in early Pilotes are also in the Spirou/Tintin mold, with a mix of humor and action/drama:

Martial - "Jerome Buff, homme a toute faire" (Jerome Buff, Handyman), March 1963

Martial – “Jérôme Bluff, homme à toute faire” (Jerome Buff, Handyman), March 1963

 

Charlier & Poivet, "Allo DMA" June, 1962

Poivet, “Allo DMA” June, 1962

What soon set Pilote apart, and what set it on course to surpass its Belgian rivals, was the strip by founders Goscinny and Uderzo.  Like any other strip in the journal, Asterix was serialized one page per week:

Goscinny & Uderzo, Asterix, September 1962

Goscinny & Uderzo, Asterix, September 1962

Asterix’ combination of slapstick comedy and anachronistic satire were two of the elements that made it a sensation:

Goscinny & Uderzo, Asterix et le combat des chefs, 1966

Goscinny & Uderzo, Asterix et le combat des chefs, 1964

Uderzo - ASTERIX - Chez Les Bretons p19 1966 DETAILBeatles

Giscinny & Uderzo – Asterix chez les Bretons, 1965

The second pillar of Pilote’s success came in 1965 with Lieutenant Blueberry, written by Charlier and drawn by newcomer Jean Giraud.  In its early years, Giraud’s art for Blueberry was often stiff and undistinguished when compared with other Franco-Belgian westerns:

Giraud & Charlier, Fort Navajo 1965; page four  of the first Blueberry story.

Giraud & Charlier, Fort Navajo 1965; page four of the first Blueberry story.

Fronval , "Jeff Stevens" from Pilote, 1962

Fronval , “Jeff Stevens” from Pilote, 1962

From the start however, Charlier and Giraud brought a refreshing, contemporary rebelliousness to the protagonist of their strip, a quality reinforced by Giraud’s depiction of Blueberry as a sosie for New Wave film star Jean-Paul Belmondo.

blueberry belmondo 2

 

Within a few years, though, Giraud’s style would progress astonishingly, just one of the many major developments that Pilote would undergo during the eventful late ’60s-early ’70s period.

Giraud - General Tete Jaune p43 1971

Giraud - General Tete Jaune p8 1971 Giraud - General Tete Jaune p39 1971

(Above: Giraud & Charlier, 3 pages from Le Général Tête Jaune, 1968)

COMING SOON: “Pilote ’68!”

Comics, a Global History: “Fumetti neri”

Magnus - Satanik 38 p40-41 1966Magnus (Roberto Raviola) (art) Max Bunker (writing) Satanik #38 • 1966 In Italy a new genre of dark, violent and erotic comics in the crime genre, called fumetti neri (“black comics”), reflected the era’s cultural freedoms and the loosening moral grip of the Catholic Church. Another major fumetti neri was sisters Angela and Luciana Giussani’s Diabolik.
(From the introduction to Comics: A Global History, 1960 to the Present )

 

Satanik #38, June 1966

Satanik #38, June 1966

Magnus - Satanik 38 p112-113 1966Magnus (art) Max Bunker (writing), Satanik #38, June 1966

Fumetti neri  can certainly be seen in context of  the broader movement toward adult comics in Europe (where they’d been pigeonholed as a children’s medium for even longer than in the U.S.), which also included  Barbarella, The Adventures of Jodelle, the work of Guido Crepax, and journals like the Italian Linus.

Magnus - Satanik 29 p-41 1966

Magnus (art) Max Bunker (writing), Satanik #29, Feb 1966

But fumetti neri were more disreputable than those high-toned examples: lurid, sexy, violent… trashy fun, definitely not for all-ages. I’m far from an expert on this stuff.  If you want to read up on Italian comics, I highly recommend Drawn and Dangerous: Italian Comics of the 1970s and 1980s, by Simone Castaldi, one of the best books in English on European comics, with a lot of insight into Italian culture and politics as well.

The most striking work that I’ve seen in this genre is by Magnus (Roberto Raviola), who collaborated with writer Max Bunker (Luciano Secchi) on the titles Kriminal and Satanik (all the work in this post is by them).

Magnus (art) Max Bunker (writing), Satanik #38, June 1966

 

The rigid 2-panel-per-page format (printed as small, digest-size paperbacks) had the effect of a productive creative restraint on their composition and story-telling.  Magnus did amazing things with blacks and sillhouettes, creating some very interesting layouts, with amazing use of negative space, and there’s some feathered inking in there that looks like it inspired Charles Burns.

Magnus - Satanik 29 p89 1966

Magnus (art) Max Bunker (writing), Satanik #38, June 1966

Magnus - Satanik - original art scan grey

 

Comics a Global History: Post-war Belgian bande dessinée 2: Spirou

 

Upcoming in June from publisher Thames and Hudson, “Comics: a Global History, 1968-present,” written by Alexander Danner and me.  Here are some excerpts, and additional material including some great comics images  that we couldn’t fit in the book.  

 

As the title suggests, the book covers the period from, roughly, 1968 until 2010. The introduction, though, provides some background on the development of comics around the world (focusing mainly on Europe, Japan and the U.S.) during the post-war era through the mid-60s.  Text in italics is directly from the book.

Continuing with the post-war Franco-Belgian comics, and focusing on the two cornerstone comics periodicals of the era, we move from Le Journal de Tintin to:

Franquin - Spirou 488 - 21-8-47 cover

 Spirou cover/strip from 1948, by André Franquin

 

Spirou #748 by Franquin, 1952

Spirou #748 by Franquin, 1952

Spirou, first published in 1938, was home to the style known as the École de Charleroi, or École de Marcinelle [for the Brussels neighborhood where Spirou was located], later referred to as the “Atom Style.” In contrast to the precise, cool and orderly approach of the Hergéan Bruxelles style, the Charleroi was more exaggerated and elastic, with a more varied and dynamic quality of line. It was perfected by a strong team of artists, including André Franquin, who took over the title character Spirou and created his beloved sidekick the Marsupilami. Others included Morris (Maurice De Bevere) with Lucky Luke, Peyo (Pierre Culliford) with Les Schtroumpfs (aka   Smurfs), Maurice Tillieux with Gil Jourdan, and Roba, with Boule et Bill.

An early (1952) Lucky Luke script by Morris.

An early (1952) Lucky Luke script by Morris.

Peyo - Les Schtroumpfes, Spirou #1409, 1965

Peyo – Les Schtroumpfes, Spirou #1409, 1965

 

Roba - Boule et Bill - Spirou 1226 - 1961 detail

Roba – Boule et Bill – Spirou 1226 (1961) detail

 

André Franquin

Franquin  - Gaston lagaffe - Spirou 1480 Aug 66 DETAIL LR

Franquin ranks with Hergé as the most revered bande dessinée artists of the postwar decades. In the late 40s, Franquin took over the title character of Spirou, and soon created the bellboy’s crazy animal sidekick, the Marsupilami.

Franquin's creation Marsupilami, the unspecified-species sidekick of Spirou is one of the most popular characters in Franco-Belgian comics


Franquin’s creation Marsupilami, the unspecified-species sidekick of Spirou is one of the most popular characters in Franco-Belgian comics

While there’s much in common between L’Ecoles Bruxelles and Marcinelle (particularly on the level of composition and layout), in Franquin’s work the differences become apparent. Instead of the cool clarity of the ligne claire style, we have here a more energetic approach to line and shading, a rounded cartooning style that owes more to the Disney model, but also a more nervous, even violent “graphism” as the French call it (a great word that means more than simply “graphic style,” I think, implying greater depths of content and meaning in the way an artist composes and draws).

Franquin Jideheim Gaston  spirou 1563 1968 DETAIL 4

Franquin and Jidehem, Gaston LaGaffe, 1968

The style bespeaks an undercurrent of anxiety and chaos, as oppose to the comforting stability of the ligne claire, and this is seen also in Franquin’s approach to character.  In the late 50s he created Gaston Lagaffe, a bumbling, lazy office worker, in the words of Matthew Screech, “the first morally ambiguous bande dessinée hero.” (from Screech’s, “Masters of the Ninth Art,” which has the best writing on Franquin in English that I’ve come across, along with great chapters on Hergé, Moebius, Tardi, Goscinny & Uderzo and other topics.)

Franquin - The Bravo Brothers, 1965

Franquin – The Bravo Brothers, 1965

 

Franquin - Modeste et Pompom, a strip he did during a brief stint working for Le Journal De Tintin

Franquin – Modeste et Pompom, the only strip he did  for Le Journal De Tintin (from 1955-58)

 

 

Maurice Tillieux

 In his private-eye series Gil Jourdan, Tillieux combined the elegance of the ligne claire with the expressive elasticity of L’ecole de Marcinelle, moving easily from comedy to action and drama, with a great sense of atmosphere.  You can see the influence of Tillieux’s  suave but comical style  on Yves Chaland,  one of the best artists in the revival of the Tintin / Spirou styles in the 198os (more on that in later posts).

Tillieux - Gil Jourdan - Spirou 1228 1961

Tillieux – Gil Jourdan – Spirou 1228 1961

Tillieux - Gil Jourdan - le grand souffle - spirou 1560 1968

Tillieux – Gil Jourdan – le grand souffle – spirou 1560 1968

Tillieux - Gil Jourdan - Spirou 1480  1966

Tillieux – Gil Jourdan – Spirou 1480 1966

Tillieux - Gil Jourdan - Spirou 1231 1961

Tillieux – Gil Jourdan – Spirou 1231 1961

The Atom Style

In my opinion, while the Journal de Tintin / ligne claire style reached its peak in the early-mid ’50s., the archetypal Spirou look emerged slightly later, as the cartoonists working in the Charleroi/Marcinelle style fully embraced the aesthetic of 1950s-early 60s Atom-age design.  Joost Swart (another key artist in the 1980s stylistic revival, who also coined the term ligne claire),  later referred to the Spirou sensibility as the “Atom Style,” with reference to this cartoony modernism.

Franquin - Modeste et Pmpon - TINTIN35 DETAIL

Franquin – Modeste et Pompon – DETAIL

Franquin - SPIROU 907 9-55 - cover La Super Quick

Franquin – SPIROU 907 1955

Mallet - Pegg - Spirou 1231 1961

Pat Mallett – “Pegg” – Spirou #1231, 1961


Even a middle-ages-set gag strip can have that “Atom style” look:

Noel Bissot - LesHallucinationsDuBaron - Spirou 1440 - 18 Nov 1965 DETAIL

Noel Bissot – Les Hallucinations Du Baron – Spirou #1440, 1965 (detail)

Not all the content of Spirou was comical.  There was also a large component of muscular action comics, the best featuring the heavy-lined exaggerated styles of Eddie Pappe and Jiji. Two examples, 20 years apart, of the two artists work on the long-running strip Jean Valhardi:Paape - Jean Valhardi - Spirou No436 -- 22  Aout 1946

Eddie Paape – Jean Valhardi – Spirou 436, 1946
Jije - Jean Valhardi - Spirou 1226 - 1961

Jije – Jaen Valhardi – 1961 Jiji (Joseph Gillain), joined Spirou in the late 1930s and drew the title strip before handing it over to Franquin. Working for the journal through the 1970s, he was a mentor and stylistic influence on artists as diverse as Franquin, Jean Giraud (Moebius) and Yves Chaland.

 

 

Jije - Jean Valhardi - L'affair Barnes, 1957.  Scan of original art, source: Galerie Laqua

Jije – Jean Valhardi – L’affair Barnes, 1957. Scan of original art, source: Galerie Laqua


 

As for covers, since the Spirou approach was generally to run a comic page on the cover, they weren’t as dazzling as in Le Journal de Tintin.  By the late 60s, though, Spirou shifted to a more conventional approach to cover, with some wonderful results:

Roba - SPIROU 144 - 18 Nov 1965

Roba – Spirou 144, 1965

Berck  - couverture - Spirou 1600   1968

Berck – Spirou #1600, 1968

WILL Spirou 1480 1966 cover

Will – Spirou 1480, 1966. The word balloon reads “That noise – t’s coming from pages 8 and 9!” Do I detect an echo of MAD #1?

mad-magazine-1-kurtzman (1)

Comics A Global History: Post-war Belgian bande dessinée – Le Journal de Tintin

Upcoming in June from publisher Thames and Hudson, “Comics: a Global History, 1968-present,” written by Alexander Danner and me.  I want to post some snippets from the book, including some great comics images (from foreign lands and bygone days) that we couldn’t quite fit in the book.  

As the title suggests, the book covers the period from, roughly, 1968 until 2010. The introduction, though, provides some background on the development of comics around the world (focusing mainly on Europe, Japan and the U.S.) during the post-war era through the mid-60s.  Text in italics is directly from the book.

Postwar European  Comics

Edgar P. Jacobs, from Blake et Mortimer, “Le Marque Jaune.’

 

French-language comics created in Belgium rose to international prominence in the postwar years. While most major European countries had their own comic book industries, their comics were generally popular only within their own borders and tended to be derivative of pre-war American newspaper strips. In Belgium, however, bandes dessinées quickly developed a decidedly modern flavor that made them popular throughout the continent.  The most popular Belgian comics periodicals, Tintin and Spirou, represent two influential stylistic branches.  

Hergé – Tintin in Tibet

Tintin, founded in 1946, was named for the popular reporter hero created in 1929 by Hergé, who was the magazine’s first artistic director. Tintin’s pages showcased the École de Bruxelles, a style later dubbed the ligne claire (“clear line”) style. Pioneered by Hergé, the style was practiced by other artists, such as Edgar P. Jacobs (Blake et Mortimer), Willy Vandersteen  (Suske en Wiske) and Bob De Moor.

Fred Funcken – Le Trone de Gilgit, 1953. Colonialist themes were very prominent in the Francophone comics of the period.

Le Journal de Tintin demonstrated the high level of artistry and imagination comics creators could bring to the form, in the decades when it was primarily a commercial children’s medium. Following the example of Tintin creator Hergé, artists such as Bob De Moor offered European readers the bright, clean, modern style known as l’Ecole de Bruxelles, later dubbed the ligne claire or “clear line” style. Graphically, the hallmarks of the ligne claire are the use of an even, unvarying line to define contours, flat color and avoidance of cross-hatching or other graphic forms of shading. In storytelling as well as graphcs, an inviting clarity and legibility were emphasized. 

The Ecole d’Herge’s emphasis on lisibilité – legibility – can be seen in an ideological light.  The entire graphic approach: unvarying line, the lack of dramatic lighting effects, consistency of background and foreground; as well as the approach to layout, using only “medium shots” and regular grids, with no close-ups or unusual angles, suggest an objectivity and stability to the universe being depicted.  In a period where France and Belgium were still  Colonial powers, the clearly-defined graphic and narrative quality of the ligne clair was a support for the rationalist, hierarchical world view that benefitted the existing power structure, helping to mold the journal’s youthful readership into good citizens.  As the great French comics critic Bruno Lecigne says, “Toute l’œuvre d’Hergé témoigne d’une doctrine d l’art classique;” (Hergé’s entire œuvre demonstrates a doctrine of classical art. “) the ligne claire was the High Classicism of European comics art.

Jacques Martin – Alix, L’ile Maudit – 1951.

 

 This classicism also expressed itself in a sort of playfully reassuring cartoon modernism, brimming with optimism about technology and progress.

Bob De Moor, 1955

What I love most about the ’40s and ’50s Tintin are the covers.  Can you  imagine being a French or Belgian kid, running to the newsstand kiosque every week for one of these jewels of color and drama?

Willy Vandersteen

Jacques Laudy is a neglected artist from this period.  He did some breathtaking covers:

 

 

More Laudy, from his fanciful, Orientalist series Hassan et Kadour:

 

 

Bob De Moor’s style was the closest of all the Journal de Tintin artists to that of Herge.

 

For French comics critic Lecigne, this stylistic simulacrum is what reveals the essence of the Hergean ligne claire:

“In Barelli [De Moor’s best known series], it’s the fascinating appearance, the opaque surface of the style d’Hergé that’s on display.  Hypnotized, I read Barelli without deciphering the text, unable to follow the plot, fascinated by the dramaturgy, the gestures.  What I have before me is Hergé emptied of substance, depth and mythology; the signifier without the signified…  reading Bob De Moor is an experience that permits me to perceive a language solely from the point of view of the signifier, syllables repeated until meaning disappears, whose existence becomes purely, concretely sonorous.” (Lecigne, Les Heritiers d’Hergé, p 39, translated by me)

 

Edgar P JacobsBlake et Mortimer rivaled Hergé’s Tintin in populariy; Jacobs represented the opposite pole of the Ecole de Bruxelles: moodier and more gothic than Herge, the series was an espionage thriller that also blended science fiction and horror.  His detailed, atmospheric London was an influence on young fan Jacques Tardi.

 

More great TINTIN covers:

Tibet

Reding

Reding

Panis

Follet

Cheneval

Bob De Moor

 

 

 

Comics A Global History: Introduction, part 1 – 1950s gekiga.

Upcoming in June from publisher Thames and Hudson, “Comics: a Global History, 1968-present,” written by Alexander Danner and me.  I want to post some snippets from the book, including some great comics images (from foreign lands and bygone days) that we couldn’t quite fit in the book.  

As the title suggests, the book covers the period from, roughly, 1968 until 2010. The introduction, though, provides some background on the development of comics around the world (focusing mainly on Europe, Japan and the U.S.) during the post-war era through the mid-60s.

In the Japanese section, after exploring Osamu Tezuka’s breakthrough work of the late 40s and early 50s, we move on to the 1950s gekiga movement:

By 1956 or so, a small rebellion against Tezukian hegemony was stirring in Osaka,
led by a group of young up-and-comers including Yoshihiro Tatsumi, Takao Saito¯
and Masahiko Matsumoto. Reverent admirers of Tezuka, they nonetheless felt
the need for more bite in their manga, and hence gekiga (meaning “dramatic
pictures” as opposed to manga, “playful picture”) was created to, as Tatsumi
put it, provide “material for those in the transitional period between childhood
and adulthood.” * Distributed through the inexpensive rental library—or
kashihon—market, the early gekiga stories were mostly thrillers and mysteries
for adolescent male readers, with cinematic paneling and lighting effects
inspired by French and American film noir.

Matsuhiko Matsumoto – Rinshitsu no otoko (The Man Next Door) – 1956 from Kage #1

The young gekiga artists of the 1950s, like Matsumoto, were great fans of Osamu Tezuka, and their cartooning style owed much to his. They pushed his “cinematic” qualities a little further, with more use of angles and of “aspect-to-aspect” paneling (images of details within a scene, employed to build atmosphere or, in the case of this page, suspense), and in general brought a darker, tougher mood to juvenile thrillers  and mysteries.

The covers the first issues of Kage (Shadow) and Machi (City). The manga anthologies that marked the beginnings of what would be called gekiga.  The covers are unsigned.  I’ve seen them attributed to Ryota Masami

This first wave of gekiga** creators collaborated on two anthology periodicals, Kage (“Shadow”) was launched in 1956. The magazine was a success, sparking a boom in crime-themed, short story manga collections for the inexpensive kashihon market. But Kage’s small Osaka publisher, Hinomaru Bunko, was in perpetual financial straits, and when in the following year it appeared that the firm would go under, Matsumoto and Tatsumi accepted an offer from a rival to start a second, noir-ish anthology, Machi (“City”).***  Here are some images scanned from facsimile editions of the first issue of each of those titles:

Yoshihiro Tatsumi , 私は見た Watashi wa Mita  from Kage #1, 1956

 

An early page by Takao Saito – later of Golgo 13 fame – from Kage 1

 

Masaaki Sato – Hakaba kara ki ta otoko” (The Man from the Grave) from Machi 1, 1957

 

Makoto Takahashi, “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes,” from Kage 1, 1956. Interestingly, Takahashi, one of the most important creators of early shoujo (girls’) manga, also appeared in the noir-ish Kage.

Fumiyashu Ishikawa, “Bullet of Fear” from Machi 1, 1957

 

Shoichi Sakurai. from Kage 1, 1956 (Sakurai was Tatsumi’s elder brother; see Tatsumi’s “A Drifting Life”)

 

Mitsuko Kuroda (?) from Kage 1, 1956

Masahiko Matsumoto “Jigoku Karaki ta tenshi” (Angel from Hell), from Machi 1, 1957

 

*Quoted in “God of Comics: Osamu Tezuka and the Creation of Post-World War II Manga” by Natsu Onoda Power

** The term “gekiga” wasn’t yet used during the heyday of Kage and Machi.  Matsumoto favored the term “Komaga” to differentiate their work, geared for older readers, from manga, which was still thought of as a children’s form. Tatsumi coined the term “gekiga” a few years later.

***As recounted by Matsumoto in his autobiographical “Gekiga Fanatics”